Asian Partners for Cooperation Conference: Climate-Related Challenges to Security and Opportunities for Co-Operation

We do find ourselves today at an inflection point in the OSCE’s approach to climate change (OSCE)

Asian Partners for Cooperation Conference: Climate-Related Challenges to Security and Opportunities for Co-Operation

As delivered by Alex Tiersky, Political Officer
to the Asian Partners for Cooperation Conference, Vienna
June 15, 2022

The United States is committed to integrating climate considerations into our broader foreign policy and security thinking, planning, and decision-making, including in multilateral fora, and we appreciate the opportunity to discuss cooperation regarding climate-related challenges to security in this forum.   

Indeed, we believe the direct and indirect dimensions of climate change require us to collectively address this issue.

The direct impacts of global warming on our communities – rising seas, the growing frequency of severe storms, and even the increasingly deadly heat itself – are well known.  

But from a security perspective, we are also deeply concerned by the indirect consequences of climate change – the so-called threat-multiplier effect.  Threats to agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity itself, and to the way of life of many of our citizens, can foster new destabilization and insecurity for communities across the world.  

The estimates vary, but climate impacts are likely to displace tens if not hundreds of millions of people from their homes.  This will pose increasingly overlapping humanitarian crises which will leave no part of our planet untouched.  Many of the most fragile states in the world are the very states that are most vulnerable to dangerous climate impacts, and we see this in the Indo-Pacific region as well.  

We therefore view the climate crisis as a shared strategic priority for both the OSCE and the Indo-Pacific regions.  We are committed to working with OSCE participating States and Partners for Cooperation to advance the interlinked, comprehensive security of our regions, to include both environmental cooperation and combating climate change.  We will continue to help others with these challenges through technical assistance and the sharing of best practices, and through pursuing meaningful new commitments such as the landmark decision we reached together in Stockholm last year.  We can do more to conduct climate risk analysis; mainstream climate considerations into conflict prevention mechanisms; and pursue international cooperation to manage natural resources sustainably and build climate resilience.

However, as we consider how to best cooperate to enhance that security for the citizens of all OSCE and Partner countries, it is impossible to ignore where it is currently under the greatest threat:  in Ukraine, where Russia’s full-scale invasion violates the core norms and values of the OSCE and is creating a catastrophic human toll and significant environmental damage with potentially wide-ranging impacts that will go well beyond Ukraine’s borders.  

In addition to the unconscionable hostage-taking of the food supplies needed by so many, we could add the damage Russia’s actions are causing to Ukrainian energy infrastructure, drinking water and wastewater systems, chemical plants, and mining facilities.  This poses significant risks to the civilian population – especially the most vulnerable – and threatens to increase pollution to air, soil, and water; release toxins and pathogens; harm biodiversity, including wildlife; and increase short-lived and longer-term greenhouse gas emissions.   Moreover, the threat posed by Russia’s crudely irresponsible attacks on Ukraine’s peaceful nuclear energy infrastructure has particularly wide-ranging and frightening implications for the entire OSCE region and beyond; and just as this threat is potentially global in its implications, so too must be the response. 

Mr. Moderator, 

Mounting an effective, collective response to these challenges requires that we keep a clear eye on those who would undermine our shared interests and values, and a commitment to work together to defeat their desire to undermine the foundations of the international system that has delivered so much for so many. Addressing global challenges, including the harmful security impacts of climate change, will require our collective engagement in all available formats.  In that respect, the United States especially values the common approaches and shared best practices that arise from this ongoing dialogue and cooperation with our Asian Partners.